First Sunday in Advent
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
This weekend begins the Church’s year. Advent serves two purposes. It inaugurates a new 12-month cycle for the Church, especially in the sense of the weekend liturgies and the liturgical seasons.
Imagine that this weekend is the first day of a school term. The Church calls us this weekend to anticipate the coming of Christ. At Christmas, the feast of the Epiphany and that of the Lord’s Baptism, the Church will introduce us to Jesus. With Lent, it will prepare us for the climactic moments in the story of salvation, the Lord’s crucifixion and then the glorious moment of Easter.
Then, the Church will urge us to ponder what this means for us, and how we should respond.
More particularly, therefore, Advent is much more than a time to prepare for Christmas, being a tempered, penitential season for decision-making when everything around us is feverish in partying and commercialism.
Without considering anything else, the clash between the spirit of Advent and the frenzy of preparing for Christmas in our culture reminds us that the Lord’s kingdom is “not of this world.”
Jeremiah is the source of the first reading. His theme, as it was the theme of all the prophets, was that God’s people could expect no peace nor joy in their lives until they wholeheartedly returned to God.
In this reading, the prophet notes the sad state of affairs for God’s people. They have been humbled. Misery is their lot. Sin has produced this unhappy situation.
However, always merciful, always good, and always protective, God will send into their midst a Savior, a descendant of King David. This Savior will bring justice. All will be fine.
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians supplies the next reading. It is an appeal to the Christians of Thessalonica, now the Greek city of Saloniki, to love each other. This love will be the sign of inwardly following the Lord.
St. Luke’s Gospel gives this weekend’s liturgy its third reading. Quoting Jesus, it states that everything earthly is subject to change and will end. God is eternal. The perfection of God’s law is eternal. Jesus is eternal. Only in God does genuine permanence and security abide.
Christmas, in every culture, is soft and lovely. Such befits the commemoration of the birth of the loving and forgiving Redeemer, Jesus the Lord. Although distractions abound, especially with all the materialism that has come to surround the season, and with all the making merry just to make merry, Jesus in any estimate remains at the center of Christmas. Advent urges us to remember this fact and to put Jesus in our hearts — literally.
As St. Luke’s Gospel bluntly says, as Advent says, Christ one day will confront us all. It may be a victorious reunion for some of us. We may anticipate its arrival, as our human frailties increase. It may come suddenly.
It will be a day of fulfillment and rejoicing, if we have followed the Lord in our own lives. Jeremiah looks to salvation and victory.
The readings remind us that in the world good stands starkly opposite evil. Such is to be expected in an imperfect material state, and in a population of human beings who, vested with free will, can be hurtful to others and to themselves as well as virtuous.
Where we are in this purview of creation, because of our free will, results from our decision to follow the Lord or not. If we choose the side of right, and of God, we will need strength. Evil is powerful, and it lures us to death. We must ask for God’s strength, and our request must be sincere.
Advent is the time to make our decision total and sincere.
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